The news stunned those who follow politics and government in California. The FBI is charging State Sen. Leland Yee with conspiracy to traffic in firearms and public corruption as part of a major investigation centered in San Francisco, the city he represents. Term limited from running again for what had been his safe state Senate seat, the arrest ends Yee’s quest to become California secretary of state.
Yee is alleged to have met on several occasions with an undercover FBI agent, soliciting campaign contributions in return for setting up a sale with international arms dealers. This is the same Yee who sponsored numerous pieces of anti-gun legislation that have seriously infringed the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding California citizens.
Specifically, Yee is charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms and to illegally import firearms, as well as six counts of attempting to defraud citizens. Each corruption count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while conviction on the gun-trafficking count could mean five years in federal prison and another $250,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors should throw the book at Yee and his co-conspirators, including well-known Chinatown gangsters among them the infamous Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.
One incredulous California newspaper reported, “The charges are particularly shocking given that Yee has been among the state Senate’s most outspoken advocates both of gun control and of good-government initiatives.” Good start, but there’s more involved here than Olympic-level hypocrisy, fooling the voters and hoodwinking political reporters.
We are reminded of the concept strongly held by our founding fathers, but perhaps best expressed by John Adams that “the only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”
Yee endangered the public liberty while simultaneously endangering the public safety. Indeed, history shows that the two are inextricably linked. There are many who well understand that the exercise of our right to keep and bear arms helps to ensure our liberty while enhancing our safety. This connection is little appreciated in the State Capitol in Sacramento, however, where short-term politics and theatrics intended to impress low-information voters prevail.
One can debate whether power corrupts or it is the power that attracts the corruptible. Both propositions are true. So, we will henceforth remember that Leland Yee once corruptly wielded power and freely exercised undue influence over citizens while secretly plotting with criminals.
For our part, we will work proudly with those citizens seeking to restore their Constitutional rights in the Golden State through the courts and at the polls. Alas, that inevitably means a struggle against those “with the power to endanger the public liberty.”